Conflict is a part of life. No one escapes it, no one hides from it. You don’t have look for it because sooner or later it will find you. It finds us all, often at the worst time.
Conflict has power to destroy relationships, erase friendships, put a gulf the size of the Grand Canyon between two siblings. It’s responsible for fracturing families, breaking hearts, and wounding spirits. The carnage it leaves behind is often gruesome and devastating.
A snaggle-toothed, many-headed monster that preys on emotions and pride, conflict is out for blood and if not handled properly the number of victims it may claim can be countless.
But there are ways to tame conflict if we keep our wits about us. Here are six things to keep in mind the next time that monster rears its scaly head:
- Step back and survey the situation from a distance. Conflict has a way of sucking us in and dragging us down. Emotions flare and words are spoken that can’t be taken back. Often, if we only take a moment to withdraw and see the whole picture, put the conflict into it’s proper perspective, temperatures settle and nerves calm. Ask yourself, is this something that really matters or only seems like it matters?
- Think before you speak. Foot-in-mouth disease can be lethal and conflict has a way of causing us to say things we later regret. Think about the words about to spill out of your mouth. Are they harmful? Are they meant to inflict pain? Or do they seek to bring resolution?
- Stay calm. Anger fuels more anger but words spoken calmly are like ointment on an open wound. When emotions get hot we tend to lose our heads. Take a deep breath and remain calm.
- Don’t make accusations based on hearsay and assumptions. Second-hand information is rarely accurate and assumptions are mere shots in the dark. If you enter into conflict armed with either of these two weapons you’re bound to look like a fool. Deal with facts and not fiction.
- Seek to understand more than to be understood. It’s easy to get caught in defense mode with a single mission to prove your point and save face. But it usually only fuels the fire. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person. See the issue from his/her perspective. Try to understand her where she is in life, where she’s come from, what other issues she may be dealing with at the time. Often, there’s more to the picture than we see initially.
- Know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. Let’s be honest, not every battle is for a mountain. Some just aren’t worth fighting. Decide right away if the conflict is really worth fighting for. Sometimes it pays to go along to get along, sometimes you just have to admit you’re wrong, sometimes you take an insult and turn the other cheek, and sometimes (and these times are mostly rare) you must stand your ground and fight. When those times arise, follow the above principles.
Conflict doesn’t have to get the best of us. By distancing ourselves, thinking before we speak, staying calm, dealing with facts, seeking to understand, and choosing our battles carefully, we can tame the beast.
So how about you. What other ways have you found to dissolve conflict before it fully matures and does real damage?